Bernie Sanders v. The Democratic Party

Updated on June 8, 2018
Bobby Shanahan profile image

Robert is a freelance writer/researcher in the Seattle, WA area. He covers current political, economic, and geopolitical news.

Bernie or Bust?

All talk in the political world since June last year has centered around the crumbling of the Republican Party, brought about by a certain billionaire real estate developer. With the rise of Donald Trump, the focus has been on the Right for some time, while the chaos on the Left has gone largely ignored.

Until now.

Donald Trump, the lone survivor of a 17 person race, is already pivoting to the general election, moving to hash things out with House Speaker Paul Ryan to unite a disparate party. With all eyes on Trump, many missed the craziness on the Democratic side, played out in the fierce feud between the Clinton and Sanders camps that has finally reached a boiling point.

Democratic officials are dealing with dissent in the party. This dissatisfaction was shown at the rowdy Nevada convention, during which Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) was booed off the stage. Sanders supporters are angry at the system tilted toward incumbents and presumptives. Bernie wins state after state, but Clinton, with her lock on the unpledged superdelegates, continues her march to the coronation.

But she’s not there yet.

Sanders supporters and delegates alike say that party unity is not a priority. Mr. Sanders himself was not even officially in the party until just months ago. His supporters feel they have been robbed of their voice, quashed by the Democratic Party establishment. The resentment has reached such a pitch that several Sanders delegates say they don't know if they can ever back Clinton.

Does this sound like a united party to you, ready to clinch a third consecutive term?

Sanders wrote, "Within the last few days there have been a number of criticisms made against my campaign organization. Party leaders in Nevada, for example, claim that the Sanders campaign has a 'penchant for violence.' That is nonsense. Our campaign has held giant rallies all across this country, including in high crime areas, and there have been zero reports of violence." However, he went on to blame leadership for using "its power to prevent a fair and transparent process from taking place." So, he does not condone violence, but he does believe party leaders are partly to blame for the violence taking place, essentially saying, ‘this violence is unacceptable, but I understand why they’re angry!’

Many significant Democratic Party loyalists who have been feeling the Bern are now souring on the senator from Vermont, seeing him as doing more harm than good at this point. Kevin Drum wrote in Mother Jones that “The one thing I do keep wondering about is what happened to Bernie Sanders. Before this campaign, he was a gadfly, he was a critic of the system, and he was a man of strong principles. He still is, but he’s also obviously very, very bitter.”

Fair or not fair?

Do you think the Democratic Party has treated Bernie Sanders fairly throughout the 2016 presidential primary process?

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Bernie Bitter or Beaten?

Bernie’s bitterness is borne out in his incessant attacks on Democratic Party leadership, National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, in particular. Doubling down on his recent attacks on the chairwoman, Bernie said he would not reappoint her if he was elected president.

Wasserman Schultz pushed back against Sanders in a CNN interview, saying, “We’ve had the same rules in place that elected Barack Obama.” Then, in a statement two Saturdays ago, she said that “even though Senator Sanders has endorsed my opponent, I remain, as I have been from the beginning, neutral in the presidential Democratic primary.” Pretending impartiality, Debbie says the rules are the same as they’ve been since 2008, however, this does not change the fact that they are rigged against an outsider candidate and are, ironically, very undemocratic.

After Wasserman Schultz called on Sanders and his supporters to get in line, it got worse. Sanders remained defiant, defending his supporters, saying he understands where they are coming from, given the bias of Democratic Party leadership. This inciteful rhetoric from the democratic socialist is given scant media attention however, as they give him a pass while blaming the violence surrounding Trump’s rallies wholly on the billionaire’s words.

Liberal commentator Van Jones said this week on CNN that he’d prefer Reince Priebus, Republican National Committee chairman, over Wasserman Schultz, after a “leadership failure” for Democrats.

And Mika Brzezinski, co-host on MSNBC's “Morning Joe,” said Schultz should “step down,” condemning the treatment of Sanders. “This has been very poorly handled from the start. It has been unfair, and they haven’t taken him seriously,” Brzezinski said about Wasserman Schultz. And this is coming from a hardcore Democrat.

Sanders Supporters Plan to Crash the Democratic Party?

This uproar over Wasserman Schultz proves the Democrats have a real uprising on their hands. The liberal half of the country are just as upset with their elected politicians as are the conservative half of this country. They feel their politicians do not represent them and they are correct. Instead, most politicians represent the big banks, their donors, and of course, themselves.

Sanders and his supporters plan to take the fight all the way to Philadelphia, where the Democratic Party National Convention is being held this summer. "Philadelphia has approved four demonstration permits in support of Sen. Bernie Sanders… including a large rally planned near the convention’s epicenter," The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. The report noted that while the city expects 30,000 people to turn out at one of the Sanders rallies, organizers hope there will be even more. What they hope to gain is anyone’s guess.

But are Sanders and his fevered voters doing more damage to the Democratic Party? Or are they having a worthwhile, much needed debate?

It doesn’t seem too cordial.

Sanders says the system is rigged in a way that subverts the will of the people. Even though Clinton has a few million more votes than Bernie, the system is definitely tilted. With the existence of the superdelegates, tied in to the party apparatus, an established and politically connected candidate like Clinton becomes inevitable, poised to steamroll any real challenge.

Sanders is not wrong to see corruption in the political process. But, is it rigged against him or rigged for the political elite? Clare Foran recently wrote in The Atlantic that “suggesting the entire political process is unfair is quite different from drawing policy contrasts—and more likely to have negative and destabilizing consequences for the party as a whole.” As Sanders continues to hammer home the corrupt nature of our political system, he is sure to continue to increase the level of anger in the base of the Democratic Party, making things even more complicated as we get closer to November.

Maureen Dowd of The New York Times wrote an illuminating op-ed about Clinton’s inability to shed Sanders recently. The former Secretary of State has been “reduced to stomping her feet on CNN, asserting her dominance in a contest that has left her looking anything but dominant.” As she continues to lose states to Sanders (7 out of 8 in landslides at one point), she looks weaker and weaker as the campaign drags on. And yet, Clinton expressed her unbending confidence, recently telling CNN’s Chris Cuomo, “I will be the nominee for my party, Chris. That is already done, in effect. There is no way that I won’t be.”

Unless she’s indicted.

Hillary’s inability to create enthusiasm for her campaign has led to Bernie becoming “the surprise belle of his side’s revolutionary ball.” And now that he has taken it to Hillary and gotten a taste of victory, he seems to like it. “He’s bedeviling the daylight out of Hillary,” and she doesn’t know what to do.

Hillary wants Bernie to “do his part” and unify the party, as she did in 2008 after losing to a certain senator from Illinois. Still, Dowd points out, after being mathematically eliminated, Clinton still “came onstage to Terry McAuliffe heralding her as ‘the next president of the United States.’ She then touted having more votes than any primary candidate in history.” So, who can blame Bernie for being a little bitter about being behind after he keeps winning states by large margins?

Democrats across the country are now getting nervous, if they weren’t already. If Hillary cannot dispose of an old socialist from Vermont, how can she defeat Donald Trump in the fall? These voters are certainly feeling dynasty fatigue, unmotivated by a traditional politician during an election cycle that seems to favor non-politicians outside of the system versus those of the system and in the political elite.

Clinton has been unable to drum up any excitement for her candidacy. The latest big idea to get people going is to put Bill in charge of the economy again. She has no new ideas and does not believe in anything with real conviction. Therefore, Dowd concludes, “Hillary can’t generate excitement on her own so she is relying on fear of Trump to get her into the White House.” This is a strategy doomed for disaster. People will be coming out to vote for Trump. People will be coming out, not to vote for Hillary, but to vote against Trump.

Not exactly a get out the vote strategy.

Sanders Loses His Innocence

As the nomination process nears a close, more liberals are moving to attack Sanders as he drags things out, when the party should be turning their fire on Donald Trump. If his fierce words and actions continue through to the Convention, it will be harder to extract concessions from Clinton regarding the platform and party nomination rules.

Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall, blamed Sanders directly for the increased animosity, saying: “The 'burn it down' attitude, the upping the ante … seems to be coming from Sanders himself. Right from the top.” Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum said last week, “It's sort of painful to see a good person like Bernie turned into such a sullen and resentful man.” Here, Mr. Sanders seems to have made the full transformation from lovable socialist to an annoying, even angry, old man.

Bloomberg News reported that Sanders has personally reached out to fellow senators and given “behind-the-scenes assurances” that he “understands the need for party unity.” If this is indeed the case, then maybe Sanders is deliberately walking a tightrope to keep his supporters engaged, while working toward a compromise in Philadelphia.

The only real chance Sanders has of being the Democratic Party presidential nominee, at this point, is an indictment coming out of the FBI investigation, coupled with a resounding win in California. The polls from the Golden State show Sanders in a statistical tie with Clinton. Sanders currently trails Clinton in pledged delegates, but by less than 300. What puts her way over the top is her grip on the superdelegates, who have mostly promised to back Clinton. Is there a way to convince these people to switch over to Sanders? Sure. But, he would need to convince them that he is the man to take down Donald Trump.

Perhaps Hillary’s email scandal will convince some of these superdelegates to go Sanders’ way. "Everybody in America is keeping it in mind and certainly the superdelegates are," Sanders said in an interview with "Face the Nation" last Sunday morning. Sanders seems to finally regard the email scandal as his last best shot to upset Clinton, after refusing to use the issue to his advantage over the campaign. He has now changed tactics, talking about it repeatedly in recent days, even entertaining the possibility that she'll be indicted.

We can only hope.

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